OTTAWA — The transport minister had a little fun in question period on Monday, driving some laughs with a response to a Bloc MP's question about knives and baby powder.
Bloc Quebecois MP Louis Plamondon accused Transport Canada of appeasing to religious groups with its recent decision to allow Sikh travellers to wear small kirpans on flights.
"They're not allowed in the U.S., but they're allowed in Canada. No problem," Plamondon said. He urged the minister to "do his homework" and recognize that "knives are more dangerous than baby powder," referencing how regulations coming into effect next week will restrict certain products.
Watch the full exchange:
Under the new rules, passengers will be allowed to carry small blades up to six-centimetres long on domestic and international flights.
For Sikhs, that means they'll be able to bring a small kirpan through security and onto planes. However, knives of any kind will still be banned on all flights from Canada to the United States. Razor blades and box cutters are still prohibited items.
Plamondon's accusation that the government is prioritizing religious dictate over passenger safety prompted Garneau to reframe the question to point to the Bloc MP's talc usage.
"In the case of baby powder or bath salts, he should know that the limit is now 350 millilitres. So that's about the size of a can of Coke," the transport minister said in French. Garneau was one of the only parliamentarians who didn't read off a sheet of paper in the House of Commons.
"If he needs more than a can of Coke's worth of baby powder for his trip, maybe he can come and see me."
Religious freedoms and political debate
The change in policy comes after the World Sikh Organization of Canada asked the government to update its rules to be more aligned with European Union.
It is tradition for orthodox Sikhs to wear five articles at all times—one of them being a kirpan—to show their faith.
The ceremonial dagger has sparked many debates about multiculturalism in Canada.
The Supreme Court of Canada decided in 2006 that a Quebec school board violated a 12-year-old Sikh student's rights when he was banned from wearing his kirpan in the classroom.
In 2011, members of the World Sikh Organization of Canada were barred from entering Quebec's National Assembly because they refused to take off their kirpans.
Mukhbir Singh, president of the World Sikh Organization of Canada, applauded Transport Canada's updated criteria and urged people to follow the new rules.
"It is important to understand however, that the size requirements will be enforced strictly and Sikh travelers wishing to travel with their kirpan meet the size requirements," Singh said in a statement earlier this month.
Transport Canada's changes will come into effect on Nov. 27.
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